WINTER GARDEN, Florida – Former Oklahoma Sooner Grant Waite of New Zealand finished second in the 2014 Champions Tour National Qualifying Tournament Saturday, earning one of five exempt cards awarded for the 2015 season.
Frank Esposito (East Brunswick, New Jersey) continued his winning ways, withstanding a challenge from Waite (Palmerston, NO, New Zealand) midway through the back nine to eventually cruise to a four-stroke victory.
With ideal scoring conditions for the final day of the 72-hole event, Waite, who was T27 after the first round and nine strokes back after three rounds (T10), staged a furious rally, making seven birdies over his first 15 holes to creep within a stroke of Esposito’s lead. However, a bogey at the last hole gave Waite a 6-under-par 66 and allowed Esposito to breathe easier the rest of the way.
Waite, a winner of the 1993 Kemper Open on the PGA TOUR, used three birdies on his front nine to creep into the all-important top five position on the leaderboard. The New Zealander then made four birdies in his first six holes on the back nine to move up into second place and solidify his fully-exempt status for the 2015 Champions Tour season.
“Any qualifying school is a grind. I managed to make a few putts early and got some momentum going which is the key at any qualifying school. You get on the right side of it and just cruise along. Today I did everything very well. It was exciting to play like this in the final round of the TOUR Q-School and I look forward to next year,” Waite said.
Several conditionally-exempt positions were decided in playoffs. Jim Rutledge (Victoria, Canada) secured the sixth position over John Riegger (Henderson, Nevada) with a birdie on the first playoff hole. Joel Edwards (Irving, Texas) earned the eighth position over Norman native Jeff Freeman (Windermere, Florida) with a birdie on the first playoff hole. Rick Gibson (Manila, Phillipines) placed 10th over Cesar Monasterio (Buenos Aires, Argentina) with a par on the first playoff hole. Doug Rohrbaugh (Carbondale, Colorado), the first-round co-leader, was 12th over Craig Thomas (White Plains, New York) with a par on the first playoff hole.
Former University of Tulsa golfer Andre Bossert placed 14th. Willie Wood of Oak Tree National in Edmond tied for 41st. The two-time Champions Tour winner will face Monday qualifying more often to get a full slate of events in for 2015.